Impressions on “The Hunger Games” (The Filipino Edition), Part 1

I’m more than half-way through the Filipino edition of “The Hunger Games”. And since I’ve been getting some search term hits for it, I thought I would share some of my initial impressions, which I also previously shared on Twitter and Plurk.

To put things in perspective, I have to mention that this is my first English to Filipino read of a modern novel/bestseller; I only skimmed through “Takipsilim (Twilight)”, so that doesn’t really count. I’ve also read the entire “Hunger Games” trilogy in English, and I’ve read the first book several times.

It was a bit difficult to adjust to the language change, but I got into the rhythm after the first chapter.

In general, I approve of the translator’s decisions regarding which particular words and in-world terms to translate, and which ones to leave as is. How the words were translated, though, is a different story altogether.

The one translation that I really have a problem with so far is “Tribute” became “pambayad”. Pambayad is a common enough word—used to mean “payment”—that if you’ve never read THG before and then encounter the word within a sentence, you may have to re-read it to figure out that we’re talking about one of the Games contestants rather than money or something. It doesn’t help that the translated word is never capitalized in the text.

“Ako na lang! Nagpiprisinta akong maging pambayad!”

“I volunteer! I volunteer as Tribute!”

Imagine that in a Tagalog dubbing of the film. 😛 Awkward translation is awkward.

I think the better translation is “Alay“, which means an “offering”, and carries with it the connotations of a “Tribute” as someone who is offered or sacrificed to a higher power that is The Capitol. I suppose “pambayad” also connotes a Tribute as “payment” for the Districts’ crime of rebellion, but I think the first option is more powerful and more accurate based on the original English term, and it also implies the second option when the Treaty of Treason is explained anyway. But since “Tribute” is an in-world term, I’d rather they retained the English word.

In Tagalog, the characters can also come across as…bitchy. Exhibit A:

In English:

It’s hard to hate my prep team. They’re such total idiots.

Maybe it’s just me, but “hangal” often comes across as rather harsh and insulting. As my friend Ron says:

Filipino Pop Culture note: Celia Rodriguez is a veteran actress who is often cast in villainous roles.

“Total idiots” was an insult too, actually, but it had an affectionate undertone in Katniss’ English voice that the translation couldn’t quite capture.

There’s also this:

And this:

In English:

“Shocked. Terrified. Uh, ridiculous, some of them.”

Here’s another iffy translation:

“Ginawa na iyon dati ni Johanna Mason…Mukha siyang iyakin at duwag kaya inignora siya ng lahat…”

Inignora” was used in place of “ignored”. I read inignora the Italian way the first time and did a double-take. Other people in my Twitter said they read it the Spanish way, which sounds pretty much the same. I think “Mukha siyang iyakin at duwag kaya ‘di siya pinansin ng lahat.” would have been just as good a translation, and less awkward.

And some random quotes and comments:

I’ll post Part 2 of this blog entry when I finish the book. I’ll also talk about the loss of a character’s voice, literal translations and word order, and additional impressions on my favorite scenes.

Disclosure: I’m actually writing an article about the translations for publication, and have sent some questions to the publisher of the Filipino Editions. Their answers will hopefully give us a look at their translation process and why they made the decisions that they did. I’m also curious about who they will say they are translating all these books for and why. 😉

To be continued…

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